NY Times: Judge limits New York police taping
In a rebuke of a surveillance practice greatly expanded by the New York Police Department after the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal judge ruled yesterday that the police must stop the routine videotaping of people at public gatherings unless there is an indication that unlawful activity may occur.
Four years ago, at the request of the city, the same judge, Charles S. Haight Jr., gave the police greater authority to investigate political, social and religious groups.
The restrictions on videotaping do not apply to bridges, tunnels, airports, subways or street traffic, Judge Haight noted, but are meant to control police surveillance at events where people gather to exercise their rights under the First Amendment.
“No reasonable person, and surely not this court, is unaware of the perils the New York public faces and the crucial importance of the N.Y.P.D.’s efforts to detect, prevent and punish those who would cause others harm,” Judge Haight wrote.
Jethro M. Eisenstein, one of the lawyers who challenged the videotaping practices, said that Judge Haight’s ruling would make it possible to contest other surveillance tactics, including the use of undercover officers at political gatherings. In recent years, police officers have disguised themselves as protesters, shouted feigned objections when uniformed officers were making arrests, and pretended to be mourners at a memorial event for bicycle riders killed in traffic accidents.
“This was a major push by the corporation counsel to say that the guidelines are nice but they’re yesterday’s news, and that the security establishment’s view of what is important trumps civil liberties,” Mr. Eisenstein said. “Judge Haight is saying that’s just not the way we’re doing things in New York City.”
This is how the push back against the attacks on our basic freedoms happens, one step at a time.
Andy in H-burg